DCH: May offers ‘sop’ to failing private market

Defend Council Housing fears that the £2bn extra housing capital programme funding will not be used to build council homes.

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Campaign group Defend Council Housing (DCH) says Theresa May’s fix for the housing crisis is a ‘sop’ to the failing private market.

DCH believes that – based on experience – the £2bn extra housing capital programme funding will not in the main be used to build council homes.

Eileen Short, of DCH, said: “We have had enough false promises – government must provide direct investment to improve and make safe existing homes, and build a new generation of 500,000 council homes at council rents with council tenancies.

“The alternative subsidies tied to private rent levels, will inflame an already dire housing situation.

“We need council housing as an alternative to the failing private market, not another sop to it.”

To DCH, financial and other barriers remain which prevent genuine council housebuilding or improvement, with private registered providers competing for this funding now building mostly for private rent and sale – not for social rent.

Short said: “This is not an adequate measure to build real council housing.

“This requires genuinely affordable target rents and permanent, secure tenancies.

“So-called ‘affordable’ homes, at up to 80% market rents, with fixed-term tenancies of five years, are causing housing problems, not solutions.

“We need investment in new and existing publicly-owned homes with a directly-accountable landlord.

“Council housing funding must be restored to a sustainable level, with inflated Treasury debt levies removed.”

DCH also remains “extremely concerned” at what it sees as the government’s failure to honour its promises about fire safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

“As the prime minister rightly said today, this tragedy should never have happened. Government must provide the promised funding for fire safety improvements including sprinklers, in all council homes where these are needed,” said Short.

“It is their responsibility.  Any commitment to new council housing must not be at the expense of existing tenants’ safety – otherwise this is a housing policy based on robbing Peter to pay Paul,” she said.

To DCH, a new generation of energy-efficient council housing is essential to meet real present housing need.

“However, the 2016 Housing and Planning Act requires local councils to sell-off ‘high value’ council homes when they become empty.

“The government has not produced the detail on how they propose to  implement this, but it remains a threat to any long-term investment in new council housing.

“If the prime minister is to deliver on her promise, the Housing and Planning Act must be repealed,” Short said.

Alongside new council housing, DCH wants “urgent action” to control rents and improve security of tenure in the private rented sector.

“The fig-leaf of measures announced today and in the 2017 Housing White Paper are inadequate.

“It must also compel private registered providers to fulfill their social purpose.

“Currently they are building more homes for the private market than for social rent,” said Short.

“We note this government plans to continue investing much less public money into council and housing association homes for rent, than in subsidising the failing private housing market.

“Housing capital investment has been cut from  £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015,” she said.

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